Bel­lamy likes the Bron­cos

The Observer - - LEAGUE SPORT - TONY DURKIN

MEL­BOURNE Storm coach Craig Bel­lamy thinks the NRL grand fi­nal on the first week­end in Oc­to­ber may well be a re­match of the 2006 de­cider, one of the three his team has lost with him as coach.

That grand fi­nal was be­tween the Storm and Bron­cos, and the Bron­cos won 15-8.

Now, be­fore read­ers start ac­cus­ing Bel­lamy of get­ting ahead of him­self with 10 rounds of the pre­mier­ship still to be played, let me ex­plain the cir­cum­stances un­der which he made the pre­dic­tion, and the pres­sure ex­erted on him to ex­pound on a ques­tion he did not want to an­swer.

I in­ter­viewed the Storm coach at a Sunshine Coast Fal­cons lun­cheon on Wed­nes­day and in a 45-minute Q&A seg­ment he an­swered a myr­iad of ques­tions hon­estly, mostly with­out hes­i­ta­tion. But when I asked him who he thought the Storm might play if they made their eighth grand fi­nal dur­ing his 15-year ten­ure as coach, he was re­luc­tant to an­swer.

When pushed, and asked which teams this sea­son had im­pressed him most, Bel­lamy named the Sharks, Roost­ers and Bron­cos. And, on the eve of their big clash at Sun­corp Sta­dium tonight, he sin­gled out the Bron­cos for par­tic­u­lar men­tion.

He says they have changed the way they at­tack, use more of the field than they had in pre­vi­ous sea­sons and had made more ground in at­tack than any other NRL team to date in 2017. And, even with­out at­tack­ing spear­heads Dar­ius Boyd and An­thony Milford, he still fears their of­fence in tonight’s game.

Bel­lamy, how­ever, was less forth­com­ing when asked if Storm skip­per Cameron Smith would line up against the Bron­cos tonight. Wear­ing a grin as wide as Mel­bourne’s tro­phy cabi­net, he merely said Smith was well rested fol­low­ing a week’s spell af­ter Ori­gin Two.

But he was more giv­ing when quizzed for his thoughts on whether his full­back-cum-five-eighth, Cameron Mun­ster, would slot into the Queens­land cen­tre spot va­cated by the in­jured Dar­ius Boyd.

While say­ing the 22-year-old Rock­hamp­ton na­tive was made for Ori­gin, his coach was ret­i­cent to rec­om­mend him as a cen­tre, where he said he re­vealed Mun­ster played just once for the Storm in 56 NRL games. Join­ing his team­mates Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater in the Ma­roons spine at five-eighth would give Queens­land a more for­mi­da­ble com­bi­na­tion ac­cord­ing to Bel­lamy.

He may have the most suc­cess­ful win­ning record of any mod­ern-day long-term coach in the game, but the Storm men­tor con­ceded he had un­der-es­ti­mated the role of Ori­gin coach when he took charge of the Blues in 2008. In three se­ries he won just two of nine games.

Hav­ing never played Ori­gin foot­ball or be­ing pre­vi­ously in­volved in the se­ries as an as­sis­tant coach, he feels he erred by pre­par­ing his team sim­i­larly to an NRL game. By the time he re­alised he was on the wrong track, it was too late to change.

But an­other ma­jor stum­bling block ex­isted – bit­ing the hand that fed them were his own play­ers. Run­ning ram­pant for Queens­land were Smith, Slater, Cronk, Greg In­glis, Is­rael Fo­lau, Dal­las John­son and Mick Crocker.

And with an em­phatic no, Bel­lamy said he would never coach at Ori­gin level again.

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